Afternoon summary

And here is an excerpt.

It is Johnson’s final proposal, a bilateral returns agreement with France plus talks to establish a UK-EU returns agreement, that seems to have sparked the fiercest reaction. Since Britain left the EU, it is no longer able to use the bloc’s Dublin system for returning migrants to the first member state they entered. It has not so far negotiated any bilateral deals. Macron has repeatedly stated the French view that France is merely a transit country for the very small percentage – roughly 3% – of migrants who enter the EU with the UK as their preferred final destination, and that the only long-term solution is greater Europe-wide cooperation to tackle a European – indeed, global – issue.

Frost says gap between UK and EU over NI protocol 'still significant' after latest talks

Only rather limited progress has been made in the latest talks with the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol, Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, has indicated. Following a meeting with his EU counterpart, Maroš Šefčovič, Frost said:

[Šefčovič] and I met today in London to take stock of discussions on the Northern Ireland protocol. We discussed the full range of issues causing difficulties in Northern Ireland.

We would still like to find a negotiated solution. But the gap between our positions is still significant and we are ready to use article 16 to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement if other solutions cannot be found.

Technical discussions will continue next week and we will meet again next Friday.

Government sources said that the two sides made “some further progress” on medicines, and that there were “constructive” discussions on the trade in goods between Britain and Northern Ireland. But trade, governance and subsidy control are still areas where the two sides are in dispute.

And this is what Šefčovič tweeted after the meeting.

Met @DavidGHFrost in London to discuss the EU's proposed solutions to facilitate the implementation of the Protocol on IE/NI + boost opportunities on the ground.

Emphasis on the supply of medicines. A decisive push is needed to ensure predictability.

We'll meet again next week.

— Maroš Šefčovič🇪🇺 (@MarosSefcovic) November 26, 2021

Sadiq Khan on the Wandsworth Food Bus at South Thames College in south-west London. The bus, which has just been launched and is described as the first of its kind, will sell nutritious, affordable food in areas of south London underserved by shops.
Sadiq Khan on the Wandsworth Food Bus at South Thames College in south-west London. The bus, which has just been launched and is described as the first of its kind, will sell nutritious, affordable food in areas of south London underserved by shops.

Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Owen Paterson U-turn shows PM could also cave in to pressure over independence referendum, SNP deputy leader claims

Keith Brown, the Scottish National party’s deputy leader (or depute leader - the party uses the Scots word), has claimed that Boris Johnson’s U-turn over Owen Paterson shows he is liable to cave in under pressure. Brown made the argument in the context of Scottish independence, where Johnson insists he will not grant permission for a second referendum on Scottish independence, despite the SNP government demanding one.

Brown told the SNP’s online conference:

Coupled with the cast-iron mandate delivered in May – and another thumping triumph in the council elections this coming May – we will continue to pile the pressure on the UK government over our legitimate demand for a referendum.

The Johnsons and the Goves of Westminster know they can’t stand in the way of the democratic will of Scotland.

And what we know is that Boris Johnson always bows to pressure – just look at the scandalous Owen Paterson affair.

The prime minister’s actions speak far louder than words.

When the prime minister had to choose between protecting the integrity of elected office or protecting his friend, he chose to change the rules to protect a colleague.

And when the pressure came on, he caved in and U-turned again.

Keith Brown.
Keith Brown. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA


Mujtaba Rahman, the Brexit specialist at the Eurasia consultancy, has posted an interesting thread on Twitter on the Johnson/Macron row over the Channel crossings. He thinks neither side emerges with much credit.

What a sorry sight to see two great countries, or at least their leaders, fighting like school-kids only two days after the calamity in the Channel in which at least 27 refugees died. Both Johnson & Macron merit some of the blame. But this is mostly down to Johnson 1/

— Mujtaba Rahman (@Mij_Europe) November 26, 2021

Wales now an 'indy-curious nation', claims Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price

Wales is now an “indy-curious nation”, Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru leader has claimed. In a speech to his party’s virtual conference, to be live-streamed at 6pm tonight, Price praises the cooperation agreement struck between Plaid and the Welsh Labour government in Cardiff and he claims it could hasten the journey towards independence. He says:

I also believe that May’s election confirmed Wales’ status as an indy-curious nation.

A curiosity that will give birth - sooner than many think - to an independent Wales.

The cross-party constitutional commission [one of the 46 agreed policies in the cooperation agreement document] will take our national constitutional journey to the next stage.

It is significant that, as its co-chair Prof Laura McAllister put it, the commission will look at the fullest range of potential constitutional futures for Wales ... It will be the first time that an official body established by the Welsh government will undertake substantive research on Welsh independence.

Price also claims the cooperation agreement is an important constitutional innovation.

[The agreement] entails Plaid Cymru transforming itself from a traditional opposition party in the Westminster sense to something new and refreshingly different, a co-opposition party, co-operating where possible, while continuing to oppose, and to scutinise and criticise where necessary.

There is no precedent for what we are about to embark upon in the politics of these islands. It is a unique Welsh departure from the British constitution – a downpayment if you like on independence - though similar arrangements have happened elsewhere – notably in Scandinavian countries such as Sweden, Denmark, and Norway; and in Commonwealth countries such as New Zealand. Small nations all breaking the mould of politics-as-usual.

What we have crafted in this agreement is an approach entirely new in the political culture we have grown up with and are used to ...

But however you describe it, and whatever you call it, it is not oppositionism for opposition’s sake.

There are some attractions to oppositionism, but the deeper question in politics is not “Who or what we are against”, but “What are we really for”?

At the heart of our politics, in this party above all else, lies the idea of a Welsh Demos, a Welsh political nationhood, which transcends party, which embodies values more enduring, and more important, than anything that divides us.

For Wales to be free, we must first be united.

And, that is what this co-operation agreement sets out to achieve. It launches us on a pathway to a united Wales, one that, sooner than we perhaps think, will find it both comfortable and natural, indeed essential, to join the world community of normal, independent nations.

Adam Price.
Adam Price. Photograph: Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans/REX/Shutterstock

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, has described the French decision to exclude Priti Patel, the home secretary, from a meeting about the Channel crisis is humiliating for Boris Johnson. He said:

This is a humiliation for a prime minister and home secretary who have completely lost control of the situation in the Channel.

At the very moment when the prime minister needed to be a statesman, what we have seen is a grave error of judgement in putting this sensitive letter on Twitter - causing our government to be excluded from these vital talks. The French and British governments must show leadership, sit down together and urgently find solutions. This continued blame game is not getting us anywhere.

Nick Thomas-Symonds.
Nick Thomas-Symonds. Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA

Labour should 'emphatically reject wokeism of small minority', says Blair

Tony Blair, the former prime minister, has said Labour should “emphatically reject the ‘wokeism’ of a small though vocal minority”. He made the argument today in the foreword to a report published by his thinktank exploring voters’ attitudes to the party, and what it could do to win the next election.

Blair argues that Labour’s plight is relatively straightforward.

After the 2019 defeat and a decade or more moving in the direction of the traditional left, Labour has a cultural problem with many working-class voters, a credibility problem with the middle ground, and is seen as being for everyone other than the hard-working families who feel their taxes aren’t spent on their priorities.

To win, Blair argues that Labour needs to abandon caution and adopt four stratagies: marginalise the far left, develop future-oriented policies, select “the best and the brightest from the younger generation” as candidates, and reject “wokeism”. He says:

We should openly embrace liberal, tolerant but common-sense positions on the “culture” issues, and emphatically reject the “wokeism” of a small though vocal minority.

The main report, written by the pollster Peter Kellner and featuring specially commissioner polling, says Labour faces a massive challenge because, to win a majority, it needs a larger swing than the party achieved in 1997. However Kellner identifies reasons for hope for the party.

On the face of it, Labour’s problem seems almost impossible to solve. The old coalition, between manual workers and metropolitan liberals, appears to have disintegrated. There does not seem to be a way to appeal to one without further alienating the other. Yet our research suggests a more optimistic conclusion. There is much common ground across all social and political groups that suggests the priorities for the government – any government – should be pensioners, the poor and “ordinary working people”.

Kellner says even cultural issues like Brexit and immigration could work in favour of Labour, not the right. He explains:

As long as they are framed as cultural battles, the Conservatives will have more powerful weapons. But if Labour can reframe these issues as economic and social challenges, in which current government policies damage people’s everyday lives, then Labour has the opportunity to develop policies that are both progressive and popular.

This is especially true for the “red-wall” seats, which independent economists say will suffer most from Brexit.

Tony Blair.
Tony Blair. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA


This is from Gérard Araud, a former French ambassador to the US.

Was it proper and productive to publish a letter sent to another government without its approval ?

— Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) November 26, 2021

Alan Travis, who for many years was the Guardian’s home affairs editor, has welcomed the French proposal for British officials to consider asylum claims on French soil, before people try crossing the Channel. (See 2.15pm.)

Interesting proposal for a new safe, legal route, from the French govt for British border force officers to go to France to examine claims for asylum in Britain....
Far more realistic than Boris's demand that all Channel migrants be sent straight back to France...

— Alan Travis (@alantravis40) November 26, 2021

Down syndrome bill passes second reading in Commons unopposed

Liam Fox’s Down syndrome private member’s bill (see 10.38am) was given an unopposed second reading in the Commons. Gillian Keegan, the health minister, who has a nephew with the condition, told the Commons:

People with Down’s syndrome should have the opportunity to enjoy all aspects of our society and to have access to the services and support that will enable them throughout their lifetime. I wholeheartedly support the Down syndrome bill.

I know that today people with Down’s syndrome are struggling to access the services they need and I’ve seen this with my own family. It is not right, it must change and we will change it.

Here is a briefing paper (pdf) from the Commons library on what the bill will do. And this is what Fox said summing up the aims of the bill.

My aim is to deal with three main areas. The first is to de-stigmatise Down syndrome and to re-educate both the public and professionals about the advances, including in life expectancy, that have occurred in recent decades. The second is to ensure that current provision of services is improved, whether provided by health, education or local services, by ensuring that providers give due consideration to those with Down syndrome when designing service provision. The third is to look ahead and deal with future issues, such as long-term care, in an era where, for the first time, many of those with Down syndrome will outlive their parents. By giving due thought to the issues today we can prevent avoidable human tragedies in the future.


Bruno Bonnell, an MP representing President Macron’s En Marche! political party in France, said Boris Johnson’s decision to publish his letter to about proposals for addressing the Channel crisis was “irritating”.

The politician, who denied that Paris had overreacted to Mr Johnson’s tweet, told Radio 4’s World At One programme:

When you want to open a negotiation, you don’t start by putting in writing publicly.

A negotiation needs to be discreet, to be respectful on both sides and finally to reach conclusions that you publish together. So that’s why it is irritating.

The French authorities were really keen to find ways, and once more Mr Johnson has been trying to take advantage of this dramatic situation to make his point ...

We need to sit down quietly, in good faith, in full trust, and not show signs of ... [using it] for your own public opinion, where you try to say, ‘Look, as they don’t know what to do, we’re going to teach the French what to do’, which is not acceptable.

The French embassy in the UK has tweeted out more quotes from President Macron.

“The real answer lies in serious cooperation, to prevent these movements, dismantle these trafficking networks and prevent these women and men from arriving on our soil, because it’s already too late when they are there.” says Pdt Macron.

— French Embassy UK (@FranceintheUK) November 26, 2021

“For these women and men leaving the misery or distress in their country and attempting to reach British territory, France is what is called a place of transit.”

— French Embassy UK (@FranceintheUK) November 26, 2021

Macron tells Johnson to ‘get serious’ on Channel crisis after tweeted letter

Here is the story from my colleagues Jon Henley and Rajeev Syal on President Macron’s response to the PM’s letter about the Channel crisis.

And here is an extract from the story, with more from the French government’s briefing.

The French government’s official spokesperson, Gabriel Attal, added to criticism of Johnson’s letter on French television, calling it “mediocre in terms of the content, and wholly inappropriate as regards the form”.

Attal told BFM TV the letter was “mediocre because it does not respect all the work that has been done by our coastguards, police, gendarmes and lifeboat crews It basically proposes a ‘relocation’ agreement, which is clearly not what’s needed to solve this problem.

“We’re sick and tired of this double talk and outsourcing of problems.”

Attal continued: “What we need is for the British to send immigration officers to France to examine here, on French territory, demands for asylum in Britain.”

He added that the tone of the letter “did not in the least reflect the exchanges Emmanuel Macron had with Boris Johnson … It’s as if Boris Johnson was regretting leaving Europe, because as soon as he has a problem he considers that it is Europe’s responsibility to solve it. It doesn’t work like that – it works through cooperation.”

Gabriel Attal
Gabriel Attal Photograph: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

At Downing Street they have been installing a Christmas tree this morning.

The Downing Street Christmas tree being installed.
The Downing Street Christmas tree being installed. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP

That seems to explain why a no entry sign also appeared for a while on the most famous front door in Britain.

A no entry sign on the door to No 10.
A no entry sign on the door to No 10. Photograph: Tom Nicholson/Reuters

Starmer explains why his anger with PM over care workers heightened by experience of his sister

In his interview with Nick Robinson for the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast (see 12.08pm), Keir Starmer also explained what was behind an emotional reference to his sister in an exchange with Boris Johnson in the Commons earlier this year.

Starmer says very little in public about his siblings, who do not like media attention. But, when Boris Johnson made the Commons announcement about the health and social care levy (the £12bn tax rise social care), Starmer told him at one point: “My sister is a poorly paid care worker, prime minister, so I know this at first hand.” He was responding after Johnson scoffed at Starmer at how the levy would disadvantage low-paid care workers.

Starmer told Robinson that he had not intended to mention his sister, but that he had a flash of anger. He said:

[Johnson] frustrated me because he just didn’t get it. What it’s like to actually work as an insecure care worker and my sister is a an insecure care worker, and I was angry because he was shaking his head dismissively and I do know first-hand what it feels like.

Starmer also said that during the pandemic his sister had also missed out on proper holiday because she had to use all her time off for isolating, or for when she was ill. He said:

She works in the care home. She’s on very low pay. She works overnight shifts of 12 hours at a time. It’s tough, hard work for which she gets very little reward.

And the bit that I suppose needled me or angered me in the last 18 months is that like everybody else, she’s had to self-isolate if she’s ill or because the rules of family members are ill. And because she hasn’t got a sick pay provision in a contract of employment, she’s had to use all her holiday in order to just get through isolation or periods of illness, so she’s got no holiday left

This is what it’s like to be on an insecure contract, prime minister. You end up with no holiday because you’ve had to take all of it in order to get through self-isolation or just ordinary illness.


Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, has admitted that civil servants do not have enough experience of science and industry. He made the comment in a letter to the Times (paywall) in which he said he agreed with Dame Kate Bingham, who was head of the government’s vaccine taskforce and who made this argument herself. Case says:

Dame Kate Bingham is correct in her assessment of the lack of skills and experience in science, industry and manufacturing across government. Her criticism is also one that the civil service has recognised itself. Improving our technical and specialist knowledge is at the heart of implementing our post-pandemic reform plans.

In his letter Case also says the civil service is addressing the problem through reform plans introduced in the summer.

Simon Case
Simon Case Photograph: Tayfun Salcı/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock

No 10 defends PM's decision to tweet about his letter to Macron

At the Downing Street lobby briefing the prime minister’s spokesperson also defended Boris Johnson’s decision to post a summary of his letter to the French president on Twitter, and said Johnson had no regrets about making the letter public, the Mail’s John Stevens reports.

🇬🇧🇫🇷 UK-France row latest: Je ne regrette rien

Asked if Boris Johnson regrets public letter to Macron, Downing Street says: "No"

Why post on Twitter? "Public rightly want to know what we are looking at in terms of solving this problem"

— John Stevens (@johnestevens) November 26, 2021


Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth tests positive for Covid

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, has tested positive for Covid.

I’ve tested positive for covid, am now self isolating & out of action for a bit.

While huge strides have been made, still a lot of virus circulating.

So get your jab and booster, do routine lateral flow tests, wear masks in crowded places & govt fix sick pay & ventilation!

— Jonathan Ashworth (@JonAshworth) November 26, 2021

That meant he was not in the Commons to respond to Sajid Javid’s statement. Alex Norris, a shadow health minister, spoke for Labour instead. You can read the exchanges on our Covid live blog.

Boris Johnson has said the UK will stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Poland against those who would “try to provoke a migrant crisis” on its borders. Welcoming the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, to Downing Street, Johnson said:

I think this is an important occasion – and we are very, very grateful to you for visiting us, for coming to No 10, to London, because this is a moment where we can reaffirm our commitment to the relationship but also to standing shoulder to shoulder with Poland against those who would try to provoke a migrant crisis, for instance, on Polish borders.

Boris Johnson (right) with his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, at No 10 this morning.
Boris Johnson (right) with his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, at No 10 this morning. Photograph: Hollie Adams/EPA


No 10 says PM sent letter to Macron in 'spirit of partnership and cooperation'

Downing Street has insisted that the letter sent by Boris Johnson to Emmanuel Macron, the French president, yesterday was written in a “spirit of partnership and cooperation”.

Although Macron has reacted angrily to Johnson’s decision to make the letter public, and to tweet about it (see 10.12am), the prime minister’s spokesman said that Johnson was serious about wanting better cooperation with France over the Channel crossings. The spokesman told the lobby breifing:

This is about deepening our existing cooperation and the work that is already being done between our two countries.

We want to work closely with international partners, obviously including France, on what is a shared issue so that we can find shared solutions.

We have seen the tragedy that happened earlier this week. As the PM said we need to do more and he has outlined areas in his letter where he believes we can do more to work together.


Starmer says Corbyn may not be allowed to stand for Labour at next election because of PLP suspension

Keir Starmer has said that Jeremy Corbyn may not be able to stand as a Labour candidate at the next election. Corbyn currently sits as an independent MP because he has had the Labour whip withdrawn in parliament. He is still a member of the party, but he is suspended from the PLP (parliamentary Labour party) because he has not given given what the party considers a sufficient retraction and apology for comments he made last year, when the Equality and Human Rights Commission report was published, saying the extent of antisemitism in the party had been exaggerated.

Starmer told the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast with Nick Robinson:

[Corbyn] knows what he must do in order to move this forward. He’s not chosen to do so – that’s his choice.

Asked whether it was likely that Corbyn would be banned from standing as a Labour candidate at the next election (which is what the rules would say, if at that point the whip was still suspended from Corbyn), Starmer replied:

I don’t know, but at the moment that may be the case.

The situation has not changed, and Starmer was just restating what has been his position for some time. But in the past, when asked about the prospect of Corbyn not being allowed to stand for Labour at the next election, Starmer has sometimes sidestepped the question on the grounds it’s hypothetical. Now he is admitting it’s a possibility.

Keir Starmer has not talked to predecessor Jeremy Corbyn in over a year

The Labour leader tells @BBCNickRobinson that Mr Corbyn - who now sits as an independent MP - "knows what he must do in order to move this forward" #BBCPoliticalThinking

— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) November 26, 2021


PM's tunnel to Northern Ireland would cost £209bn, says report that finally kills off plan

The government has finally buried plans for one of Boris Johnson’s cherished infrastructure ambitions – a bridge or a tunnel linking Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Despite masssive scepticism from experts and colleagues - Dominic Cummings, the PM’s former chief aide, dubbed it “the world’s most stupid tunnel” - Johnson ordered a feasibility study. It has been published today, alongside the report of the union connectivity review, which recommends how UK transport links could be strenghened.

The main report (pdf) and the tunnel/bridge feasibility study (pdf) were both produced by Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail and a former head of Transport for London. On the fixed link with Northern Ireland, he writes:

This in-depth, evidence-based assessment has concluded that cutting-edge, twenty-first century civil engineering technology would make it possible to construct either a bridge or a tunnel between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. A bridge crossing, however, would be the longest span bridge built to date. A tunnel would be the longest undersea tunnel ever built given the limited gradients on which trains can operate, the route it would need to take and the depths it would need to reach. In addition, based on today’s technology and safety considerations, a tunnel crossing could only be constructed for railway use ...

The consequence of these parameters for either a tunnel or a bridge is that they are expensive. The indicative cost estimate for the full route, including optimism bias (at P95), is £335bn for a bridge crossing and £209bn for a tunnel crossing. The bridge or tunnel, and the associated very significant works on either side for a railway and possibly for roads would take a very long time. Planning, design, parliamentary and legal processes, and construction would take nearly 30 years before the crossing could become operational, even given a smooth passage of funding and authority to proceed.

Whilst the economic and social effects would be transformational, the costs would be impossible to justify, given the government’s already very significant commitment to long term transport infrastructure improvement for levelling up, and the further likely significant expenditure which would result from the further studies I am suggesting in my main UCR report.

And here is the news release about the union connectivity review. It includes a plan, which the government is accepting, for a UKNET, “a strategic transport network spanning the entire United Kingdom”. The Department for Transport says: “UKNET will assess and map out for the first time the key points across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom that are essential to stronger, more direct transport connections.”


In the Commons Sajid Javid, the health secretary, is about to make a statement about Covid, and the risk posed by the new variant found in South Africa. My colleague Lucy Campbell will be covering that separately on our Covid live blog. It’s here.

Michel Barnier, the EU chief Brexit negotiator who is now running to be the presidential candidate for Les Républicains, the French centre-right party, has also criticised Boris Johnson over the open letter he released last night. As the Express reports, Barnier said in an interview this morning:

This is obviously an additional provocation from Boris Johnson, who is in a state of mind of confrontation on all subjects with the European Union ...

I find this is frankly absolutely inadmissible. What you don’t need is confrontation, it’s to sit down at the table and find solutions.

Michel Barnier.
Michel Barnier. Photograph: Ugo Amez/SIPA/Rex/Shutterstock


'We are sick of double speak' – French government intensifies attack on Johnson

The French government has accused Boris Johnson of “double speak”. In a briefing, the French government spokesperson, Gabriel Attal, said that the proposal in Johnson’s letter to Emmanuel Macron for France to take back people who successfully cross the Channel on small boats was “clearly not what we need to solve this problem”.

According to PA Media, Attal also said that the letter doesn’t correspond at all” with the discussions Johnson and Macron had when they spoke on Wednesday. Atta went on: “We are sick of double speak.”


Liam Fox says Down's syndrome bill about ensuring people get 'respect, independence and dignity'

It would be a “stain on our country” to see people with Down’s syndrome whose parents have died being placed in “inappropriate institutions”, MPs have been told. Opening the Commons debate on his Down’s syndrome private member’s bill, which has government backing, Liam Fox, the Conservative former international trade secretary, said:

What would be completely unacceptable, a stain on our country and a scandal would be to see in future those whose parents have died being placed in inappropriate institutions, in elderly care homes or mental health institutions.

That would be something that I think would bring shame to our country as well as an utterly inappropriate lifestyle for those to whom we should be giving the best possible care.

Fox said his bill would lead to the health secretary “giving instructions to local health authorities, CCGs [Clinical Commissioning Groups], to local education authorities, and to local authorities in charge of long-term care to ensure that they make provision for persons with Down’s syndrome in the words of the bill”. He went on:

This is not a bill about a condition, it is not about dealing with Down’s syndrome, it is about people who deserve the same ability to demand the best health, education and care as the rest of our society.

It is not on our part an act of charity, it is an act of empowerment and the recognition that all members of our society must have a right to respect, independence and dignity. That is why I brought this bill forward.

Liam Fox.
Liam Fox. Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA


And this is from Sophie Pedder, the Economist’s bureau chief in Paris, making the same point. She has also published a book on Macron.

If you tried to write a letter designed to irritate France, this would be it:
1 self-congratulate and take moral high ground
2 make letter public, to enhance 1
3 tell France and EU to do more to patrol a border that the UK left EU in order to regain control over


— Sophie Pedder (@PedderSophie) November 26, 2021

These are from Adam Plowright, a journalist who has written a biography of Emmanuel Macron, on why the French president has responded so negatively to Boris Johnson’s letter.

French reaction is because of the 'poor substance and the completely inappropriate form', per govt spokesman. My translation: making letter public was a redflag, suggesting France take back all migrants was ridiculous.

— Adam Plowright (@ADAMPLOW) November 26, 2021

French view is that you don't do diplomacy in the open, and affairs of state between leaders should be kept private. Hence reaction to Johnson's decision to publish letter on Twitter (see also recent fury after Australian PM leaked an SMS from Macron)

— Adam Plowright (@ADAMPLOW) November 26, 2021

Newsnight’s Lewis Goodall has more on what the French president, Emmanuel Macron, said about Boris Johnson at his press conference this morning.

NEW: President Macron responds to @BorisJohnson: “The only answer is a serious cooperation...I am surprised by the methods when they're not serious. We don't communicate from one leader to another on these subjects like this via tweets or by making letters public.”

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) November 26, 2021

At the end Macron says French Interior Minister will meet with his EU counterparts and the Commission on Sunday. Then says they’ll work with the British “when they decide to be serious about it.”

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) November 26, 2021

This now has become a major diplomatic row and rift. There’ll be endless (Brexit infused) argument about who is responsible but net result is that when the weather clears the people in the camps are just as much at risk as before and it all happens again. A disaster, all round.

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) November 26, 2021

Macron slams Johnson for trying to negotiate with him via Twitter, saying that's 'not serious'

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has reprimanded Boris Johnson for trying to negotiate with him about about stopping people crossing the Channel in public, via Twitter. He said he was “surprised” by Johnson’s decision to communicate with him in this way, because it was “not serious”. He explained: “We don’t communicate by tweets.”

Emmanuel Macron sur la lettre de Boris Johnson: "Je suis surpris des méthodes quand elles ne sont pas sérieuses, on ne communique pas par tweets"

— BFMTV (@BFMTV) November 26, 2021

This is from the BBC’s Paris correspondent, Lucy Williamson.

Macron: "Communications between leaders should not take place over Twitter or in public letters. We are not whistleblowers." Says discussions with the UK can happen "if they decide to be serious"

— Lucy Williamson (@LucyWilliamson) November 26, 2021

Earlier Williamson posted this on Twitter.

MPs here describing huge irritation at Boris Johnson's public proposal to return migrants to France: UK seen as twisting information & out for itself: "It's about the worst thing you can do with Macron," one MP told me. "He's the kind of leader who likes to fight face-to-face."

— Lucy Williamson (@LucyWilliamson) November 26, 2021


Shapps urges French to reconsider after Patel excluded from meeting to discuss Channel crossings

In interviews this morning Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said he hoped the French would reconsider their decision to disinvite Priti Patel, the home secretary, from a meeting planned for Sunday to discuss the Channel crossings. He told BBC Breakfast:

Quite simply no nation can tackle this alone, I hope that the French will reconsider, it’s in our interests, it’s in their interests and it’s certainly in the interests of people being trafficked to the UK.

These tragic scenes we’re seeing of people losing their lives, we absolutely need to work together and that’s the right thing to do.

Let’s see what happens, friends and neighbours need to work together, there’s no other way to address the problem apart from working together.

I hope that isn’t the end state of it because how can we resolve these problems if we do not work together?


Tim Loughton, a Conservative former minister and a member of the home affairs committee, has accused the French of “turning a blind eye” to the problem at the Channel in the light of Paris’s reaction to the PM’s letter.

The French have got to get real and recognise there are consequences from turning a blind eye rather than stopping the migrant boats at source and those consequences are tragedies like the one 2 days ago. Partnership working is the only way to find a solution not petulance

— Tim Loughton MP (@timloughton) November 26, 2021


Javid to make Commons statement about risk posed by new coronavirus variant

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, will make a Commons statement on Covid at 11am, the Commons authorities have announced. He will be talking about the risk posed by the new coronavirus variant found in South Africa.

As we reported last night, the government banned flights from southern Africa late yesterday, adding six countries to the travel red list, after scientists raised the alarm over what is feared to be the worst Covid-19 variant yet identified.

Minister claims PM’s letter to Macron was not ‘inflammatory’ as Paris cancels talks on Channel crossings

Good morning. Last night Boris Johnson released the text of an open letter (pdf) sent to the French president, Emmanuel Macron, suggesting various measures France could take to help stop people crossing the Channel on small boats. One of his proposals was that France should just simply take people back after they have arrived in Britain.

As he explained it in a Twitter thread, this could serve as a massive deterrent, he argued.

If those who reach this country were swiftly returned the incentive for people to put their lives in the hands of traffickers would be significantly reduced.


— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) November 25, 2021

This would be the single biggest step we could take together to reduce the draw to Northern France and break the business model of criminal gangs.


— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) November 25, 2021

The letter has gone down very badly in Paris. As my colleague Rajeev Syal reports, the French have now told Priti Patel, the home secretary, she is no longer invited to a meeting being held on Sunday to discuss the situation.

If the Johnson letter was intended to further cooperation with the French, it has clearly backfired very badly. But because of Johnson’s decision to make it public, there are suspicions that it was written primarily for a domestic audience, rather than for the Élysée Palace, and that the PM just wants to ensure that British voters blame France, not his government, for the ongoing crossings.

On the Today programme this morning Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, insisted that Johnson had acted “in good faith” and that the letter was not “inflammatory”. He told the programme:

I think it is really important that we work hand-in-glove with the French. I don’t think there is anything inflammatory to ask for close cooperation with our nearest neighbours.

The proposal was made in good faith. I can assure our French friends of that and I hope that they will reconsider meeting up to discuss it.

Here is the agenda for the day

9.30am: MPs debate the second reading of Liam Fox’s private member’s Down syndrome bill.

9.30am: The ONS publishes provisional excess death figures for last winter.

11am: French fishers plan to block the port of Calais in protest over post-Brexit fishing licences. Later they plan to block the Channel tunnel.

11.30am: Downing Street holds its lobby briefing.

12pm: The ONS publishes its latest weekly Covid infection survey.

12pm: David Frost, the Brexit minister, meets his EU counterpart, Maroš Šefčovič, in London in the latest round of talks on the Northern Irish protocol.

2pm: Keith Brown, the SNP deputy leader (or depute leader, as the SNP calls the post, using the Scottish spelling), gives a speech at the SNP’s online conference.

Afternoon: Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru leader, will be speaking at his party conference.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

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Andrew Sparrow

The GuardianTramp

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